- Holes big enough to drive a truck through:
I tend to look at the positive of what a player can do rather than what he can't, so when it's noted that the Brewers had to take Yuniesky Betancourt in the deal to acquire Zack Greinke from the Royals, I don't harp of Betancourt's poor defense and atrocious on-base percentage; I look at Betancourt's 47 extra base hits in 2010 (a number he's approached in every one of his full big league seasons) and say, "they might get some use from him".
Apart from that, the Brewers have drastically improved themselves from the .500 team they've been in the past two seasons as they acquired Greinke from the Royals for a package of youngsters----ESPN Story.
This comes on the heels of their acquisition of Shaun Marcum from the Blue Jays. The Brewers rotation is now among the top tier in baseball with Yovani Gallardo, Greinke, Marcum and Randy Wolf as a number four----where he belongs.
They can really hit as well.
But their flaws are still glaring and must be addressed as should their questions regarding the new manager and their newest acquisition, Greinke.
The Brewers bullpen has been awful in the past few years; they overspent on the likes of LaTroy Hawkins and David Riske to terrible results; Trevor Hoffman was great in his first season with the club in 2009, but horrific last year and is now gone. His replacement closer, John Axford, showed promise; if they truly intend to contend in the tough NL Central, they need to beef up the bullpen. I'm wondering whether they'll make a bold move on Rafael Soriano now that they've got the starting rotation to go along with their lineup.
Then there are the lingering questions about Greinke. He was masterful in 2009 as he won the AL Cy Young Award. He was shaky in 2010 and until he loses the deer-in-the-headlights look, a jaundiced eye will be cast on his mental makeup.
Will he handle being the focal point even in a mid-market town like Milwaukee? He's never been in a pennant race; he's never pitched in a prototypical "big" game; he's never been anywhere close to a relevant baseball venue. What happens in September if the Brewers are two games behind the Cardinals and heading into St. Louis for a key series with Greinke pitching the opener against Adam Wainwright? When he sees Albert Pujols striding to the plate with two runners on base in the first inning? Will he panic? Or will he rise to the occasion?
These are not small, insignificant questions to ask about a player who's had the off-field mental problems dealing with his station that Greinke has had.
Even if he is the ace he was in 2009, the Brewers bullpen is a problem. If they go after Soriano, then they're legitimate contenders for the playoffs. Could they survive with Axford? Maybe. But I'd prefer to have a proven closer.
Then there's the new manager Ron Roenicke.
His resume is excellent; he comes from stock as a longtime journeyman player who hung around the big leagues on guile more than talent; he paid his dues managing in the minors and was a longtime coach for Mike Scioscia with the Angels.
But other managers have had similarly solid resumes and failed miserably, so you don't know until you know. I think Roenicke will do well, but I also thought Trey Hillman was going to be a big time winner with the Royals, so it has to happen before it's taken for granted.
The Brewers are a playoff contender in the pre-season analysis, but with those questions and the winter only half over, they do have other issues to address. Are they better than the Cardinals right now? I'd say no.
They're among the group of teams who are in the mix for the playoffs; they've been aggressive in getting drastically better, but Greinke is no guarantee and the bullpen is a problem. What maneuvers they make from now on will determine the decision to anoint them as the class of the NL Central or not.
If the players perform as expected, holes can be covered; there are also mid-season deals to be made; but if they don't do as they're asked; if they stumble, someone has to pick up the slack. Do the Brewers have the personnel to do that?
Right now, I'd say I don't know; right now, I'd say hold off and wait.
- Viewer Mail 12.20.2010:
I hope "Perpetual Pedro" still has tendons and ligaments attached to his arm.
Feliciano has been a gutty and solid performer for the Mets; never complaining and always doing his job. He'll blow a couple here and there, but for the most part in his 80 or so appearances, he'll get the job done. He's an asset to the Yankees bullpen.
Joe writes RE the Red Sox:
I like how you say the Red Sox were plagued by injuries and that is why their plan didn't work. Then say not getting a bat was a "mistake." Their offense was really good. And they had guys up and down the lineup that could hit some. It is actually possible that they wanted to wait to deal for Gonzalez with only a year left, to surrender one or two fewer prospects. Plus, they knew Crawford would be available. And they assigned a scout to follow him around for half of 2010. There have been jokes that Theo's plan began at such a young age, but I have no trouble believing that he had a plan for 2011, before 2010 ever began. The Red Sox 2009 offseason was fine. The team was good enough in what was clearly a "bridge year."
On the surface and without mining deeper into the accuracy of your statement through numbers----supposedly your forte----you're right. The Red Sox offense was "good enough"; but when you look at it in detail, you're selectively picking and choosing numbers to bolster your argument.
The Red Sox offense was second in the AL in runs scored, but that was skewered by some gigantic offensive explosions of double digit runs. They were inconsistent and flawed when constructed as they expected too much from players for whom it was unreasonable to expect too much.
If they didn't want to overpay for Gonzalez, then why have they been pursuing him for the better part of two years (at least)?
Regarding Crawford, I don't see it as a big deal that they were following him for half the year; that could have been a scouting operation not only for the decision of whether or not to sign him, but for a potential playoff matchup. I'm sure they had scouts assigned to keep an eye on Gonzalez and Jayson Werth along with any other player in whom they had an avid interest.
The Red Sox 2009 off-season was not "fine"; it was an attempt to build through stat zombie tenets----like the "closer-by-committee"----that failed in practice.
They're doing it the way they should be doing it now; for that they should be applauded; but don't try to alter history with non-facts as to their thinking that you or I couldn't possibly know.
I was on last Wednesday with Sal at Sportsfanbuzz talking about the winter thus far. Click here to go to his site and get it from I-Tunes and here—-The SportsFan Buzz: December 15, 2010—to get it directly.
- New site design: